John Lewis Partnership reports profit fall despite focus on quality and innovation

The John Lewis Partnership has reported a fall in profits of 10.9% citing higher pension charges and lower property profits.

John Lewis reports profit fall
John Lewis reports profit fall

The group, which runs the department store chain and supermarket Waitrose, revealed that 91,500 staff would receive a bonus of 10% of their salary, slightly down from last year's 11%.

The full-year results, for the 52 weeks until 30 January 2016, show profits before tax and before exceptional items down 10.9% to £305.5m (down 9.3% on a 52 week basis). Operating profit before property profits was up £8.7m (3.9%) in Waitrose and £1.8m (0.7%) in John Lewis.

In a statement, the company said giving customers an additional reason to visit its Waitrose stores in an "online age" is a core strategy.  It now has 117 cafes, six wine bars, nine juice bars, 66 eat-in bakeries and three recently opened sushi bars. These drove an uplift of 20% in hospitality sales. Other services such as foreign currency and click and collect  are now available in 300 branches with dry cleaning in148 shops.

The popularity of click and collect grew with collections of John Lewis orders from Waitrose up by 19%. Almost three-quarters (70%) of all click and collect orders were picked up from Waitrose branches.

The myWaitrose loyalty scheme has 6m members and 70% of all sales are to cardholders, the company revealed.

The Waitrose 'Pick Your Own Offers' scheme, which allows customers to choose ten products on which they can obtain a discount, now has over 1m subscribers.  Waitrose has also launched a new app, which has made it more convenient for customers to change their selection of  products through the scheme.

Within John Lewis, the company said it is redesigning shops to offer additional services and instore experiences, while delivering convenience and added flexibility through online channels. In Birmingham, it opened its first full-line department store for four years,  with new concepts including a fashion-led lifestyle concept loved&found and the first ever &Beauty spa.

Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman of John Lewis Partnership, said: "The Partnership has delivered a healthy trading performance and increased market shares in challenging conditions.

"Market conditions were challenging through the year with deflation in grocery of -2.6% and subdued demand in non-food. Quality, value and product innovation were therefore all the more important alongside greater convenience and service. Our Partners performed well on all those fronts and did so while controlling costs tightly and increasing margin.

"As a result, Waitrose gained market share and grew profits. We attracted more customers while rewarding the loyalty of existing customers through hugely popular initiatives like myWaitrose, which now has six million members.

"In John Lewis we achieved sales growth and market share gains in fashion, home and electricals and home technology and an increase in profits."

The company started the 2016/17 year on a positive note. Gross sales after the first five weeks of the year were up by 4.2% against last year. In grocery, the market remains challenging, with Waitrose gross sales up 3.4% (0.4% like-for-like, excluding petrol). John Lewis gross sales were 5.5% higher than last year (3.6% like-for-like).

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